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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, January 3, 2010

NFL: Cowboys win NFC East with 24-0 win over Eagles


JAIME ARON
AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys had their way with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Their reward: the NFC East title and the challenge of trying to do it again.

Romo threw a pair of early touchdown passes and the defense took over from there, sending Dallas to a 24-0 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday and setting up a rematch at their new palace next weekend.

The Cowboys (11-5) have quickly become a team nobody wants to face this postseason. This was their third straight impressive win and their most complete performance of the entire season.

The shutout also made for a major milestone in the club's storied history: First-ever back-to-back blankings. Only twice in the previous 49 seasons had they even had two shutouts the entire season. The amazing part about this one is that Philadelphia (11-5) came in having won six straight, averaging 31.2 points in that span.

The Eagles had two of their three lowest-scoring games of the season against Dallas while getting swept for the first time since 2005. Coach Andy Reid better get to work soon because his club is headed back to Cowboys Stadium for a first-round playoff game Saturday or Sunday.

Donovan McNabb was 20 of 36 for 223 yards, and Philadelphia finished with 228 total yards.The Cowboys had 291 yards at halftime on their way to gaining 474.

Romo was 24 of 34 for 311 yards, with the two touchdowns and an interception. He also capped the most productive season of his career and in franchise history, setting club records for attempts, completions and yards passing. The Cowboys also set a record for single-season yards.

A crowd of 100,621 packed Cowboys Stadium hoping the home team would pay back Philadelphia for a 44-6 loss in last season's finale that kept Dallas out of the playoffs and led to all sorts of offseason changes. The past few weeks have proved they truly are a different bunch.

That couldn't be said a few weeks ago, when Dallas opened December with its first back-to-back losses of the season. But this surge since then is a reputation-changer as the Cowboys erased a nine-game losing streak in finales and secured their first winning record after Thanksgiving since 1996, which also was the last time they won a playoff game.

For coach Wade Phillips, this was his second division title in three seasons in charge. That should be enough for owner Jerry Jones to pick up the club option on Phillips' contract for next season.

Jones had plenty to love about this game from the biggest crowd since the opener to the payday of a home playoff game at his $1.2 billion stadium. In the final minutes, the giant video boards showed him celebrating in his suite, wearing a gray division champion hat along with guests Emmitt Smith and golfer John Daly.

About the only thing that happened that Jones didn't like was seeing those video boards blank out for about a minute shortly before the 2-minute warning.

The stadium was buzzing long before kickoff, with the pregame flag wavers setting a tone by running out with sparklers flying out the top of their flagpoles for the first time. Dallas won the toss, took the ball and immediately got into a groove, with Marion Barber breaking off a 35-yard run on the second snap.

The Cowboys had four drives in the first half and came close to scoring on them all. They wound up with 17 points, getting a pair of touchdown passes from Romo and a 44-yard field goal. The only time they failed to score, they were inside the 10 when Romo's pass to Patrick Crayton was tipped and intercepted.

That pickoff was Philadelphia's best play of the game.

McNabb went three-and-out with a sack to start the game, then Jeremy Maclin missed a wide-open pass that would've been a huge gain on the second series. Gains of 31 and 32 yards got the Eagles to the Dallas 14-yard line, but then McNabb fumbled a low snap from new center Nick Cole.

Philadelphia never got anything going in the second half. On a fourth-quarter series, Dallas lineman Jason Hatcher lost his helmet while going through the offensive line, but stayed with the play and ended up with his first sack of the season. On the next snap, McNabb threw deep for Maclin and cornerback Mike Jenkins was right there with him and cleanly swatted the ball away.